Plantation

( 113 )

Overview

Pat Conroy called Dorothea Benton Frank’s debut, Sullivan’s Island, “hilarious and wise,” while Anne Rivers Siddons declared that it “roars with life.” Now Frank evokes a lush plantation in the heart of modern-day South Carolina—where family ties and hidden truths run as deep and dark as the mighty Edisto River…

Caroline Wimbley Levine always swore she’d never go home again. But now, at her brother’s behest, she has returned to South Carolina to see about Mother—only to find ...

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Plantation

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Overview

Pat Conroy called Dorothea Benton Frank’s debut, Sullivan’s Island, “hilarious and wise,” while Anne Rivers Siddons declared that it “roars with life.” Now Frank evokes a lush plantation in the heart of modern-day South Carolina—where family ties and hidden truths run as deep and dark as the mighty Edisto River…

Caroline Wimbley Levine always swore she’d never go home again. But now, at her brother’s behest, she has returned to South Carolina to see about Mother—only to find that the years have not changed the Queen of Tall Pines Plantation. Miss Lavinia is as maddeningly eccentric as ever—and absolutely will not suffer the questionable advice of her children. This does not surprise Caroline. Nor does the fact that Tall Pines is still brimming with scandals and secrets, betrayals and lies. But she soon discovers that something is different this time around. It lies somewhere in the distance between her and her mother—and in her understanding of what it means to come home…

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Filled with entertaining characters and lots of humor." —The State - Columbia, SC

"Think Terry McMillan meets Rebecca Wells by way of the Deep South and you'll be barking up the right bayou." —The Mirror (UK)

Pat Conroy
Dorothea Frank and I share the exact same literary territory--Sullivan's Island is hilarious and wise....
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780515131086
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/3/2001
  • Series: Lowcountry Series
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 202,891
  • Product dimensions: 6.68 (w) x 10.92 (h) x 1.17 (d)

Meet the Author

Dorothea Benton Frank is from Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. The New York Times bestselling author of Sullivan’s Island, Plantation, Isle of Palms, and Shem Creek divides her time between the New York area and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

Biography

An author who has helped to put the South Carolina Lowcountry on the literary map, Dorothea Benton Frank hasn't always lived near the ocean, but the Sullivan's Island native has a powerful sense of connection to her birthplace. Even after marrying a New Yorker and settling in New Jersey, she returned to South Carolina regularly for visits, until her mother died and she and her siblings had to sell their family home. "It was very upsetting," she told the Raleigh News & Observer. "Suddenly, I couldn't come back and walk into my mother's house. I was grieving."

After her mother's death, writing down her memories of home was a private, therapeutic act for Frank. But as her stack of computer printouts grew, she began to try to shape them into a novel. Eventually a friend introduced her to the novelist Fern Michaels, who helped her polish her manuscript and find an agent for it.

Published in 2000, Frank's first "Lowcountry tale," Sullivan's Island made it to the New York Times bestseller list. Its quirky characters and tangled family relationships drew comparisons to the works of fellow southerners Anne Rivers Siddons and Pat Conroy (both of whom have provided blurbs for Frank's books). But while Conroy's novels are heavily angst-ridden, Frank sweetens her dysfunctional family tea with humor and a gabby, just-between-us-girls tone. To her way of thinking, there's a gap between serious literary fiction and standard beach-blanket fare that needs to be filled.

"I don't always want to read serious fiction," Frank explained to The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. "But when I read fiction that's not serious, I don't want to read brain candy. Entertain me, for God's sake." Since her debut, she has faithfully followed her own advice, entertaining thousands of readers with books Pat Conroy calls "hilarious and wise" and characters Booklist describes as "sassy and smart,."

These days, Frank has a house of her own on Sullivan's Island, where she spends part of each year. "The first thing I do when I get there is take a walk on the beach," she admits. Evidently, this transplanted Lowcountry gal is staying in touch with her soul.

Good To Know

Before she started writing, Frank worked as a fashion buyer in New York City. She is also a nationally recognized volunteer fundraiser for the arts and education, and an advocate of literacy programs and women's issues.

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Read an Excerpt

Prologue: Don't Leave Me Now!

2000

This story I have to tell you has to be true because even I couldn't make up this whopper. And Mother's wakepacked to the rafters with the well-dressed curious and the well-heeled sorrowfulmay seem an insensitive place to begin, but here we are and it's all I can think aboutthat is, the progression of events that led up to this moment. I'm obsessing and entitled to it too. So would you.

Think about this. You know those pivotal moments in your life that you don't see coming? The ones you wished arrived with a timer going off so you'd know this is it! Well, when the phone rang in February, you couldn't have convinced me that six months later, Mother would be in “the box” and I'd be wearing her pearls, twisting them around my finger exactly like she used to do.

Oh, God, here comes Raoul. Excuse me for a moment.

“Mees Caroline, I want to express my deep sympathy to you in thees torrible time of you troubles.”

He took my hands in his. His hands were callused but manicured.

“Thank you, Raoul, thank you for coming,” I said, thinking that he was actually rather handsome. He exuded something, I don't know, some masculine whatever.

“She was very beautiful, your mother, and I will hold her een my heart forever.”

“Thank you,” I said, “I know she was very fond of you.”

” he said, a smile spreading across his face, “ees true.”

He released my hands and walked away, back into the crowd. Mother slept with him? Well, why not?

Where were we? Ah! Pivotal moment! Pivotal moment, indeed. You see, Triphe's my only brothercalled me in New York, in the middle of a cocktail party my husband, Richard, and I were giving, to announce that Mother had flipped her wig and tried to kill him with her daddy's Parker Old Reliable. (That's a shotgun.) He said she was crazy and that he had her power of attorney and was putting her away somewhere where she couldn't hurt anyone.

I knew that was some bodacious bull because my brother was generally accepted as the Second Coming, that is, if Mother's lifelong drooling all over him was an indication of her religious devotion. I guess that sounds like a classic sibling rivalry remark, but you have to know certain things and then you would agree.

First, Trip was the spitting image of Daddy and Daddy was deaddead and canonized by Mother decades ago. Mother, bereft with her loss, then did a textbook transference of her enormous love for Daddy and heaped it on Trip. Yes, my husband, Richard, is a psychologist and a psychiatrist. We, Richard and I, are...well, we'll get to that.

Second, Trip, dweeb that he is, returned her blind-eyed affection with boundless ingratitude. My brother has always been the archetypal rationalization of why I had declined the possibilities of marriage with southern men. It was their relationships with their mothers that always did me in. That, and the archaic sexism. But of course, with the birth of my own son, I quickly realized, and then denied, that I was wrong about that too.

Poor Trip! Mother would say over and over, sighing with the weight of all the problems of the world.

Well, I didn't completely disagree there. Trip was carrying a cross the size of the Brooklyn Bridge with that tacky, low-rent wife of his. Frances Mae and her horrible children! Dear God! What a disaster she was! Gives new definition to the old ball and chain! We'll dissect Frances Mae later, don't you worry about that for a minute.

So, back to Mother and Trip and their Freudian Oedipus thaing. I wonder how much Mother would have seen of Trip if our plantation didn't have a dock and a landing so Trip could spend half his life on the Edisto River.

Trip was your basic southern good old boy. Lawyer, fisherman, hunter. Clean-shaven, a good dancer, manly, and with flawless manners. He never came to the supper table without a tiny cloud of aftershave in his aura. He always held Mother's chair for her and found a compliment for her as well. Mother was smug in her reign as the matriarch and that she was well in control of her son's attention.

They shared many things in common. Great regard of weekly family dinners, love of land, sense of place, and the importance of a stiff drink or two at the end of the day. Frances Mae was never going to get in the way of Mother's love for Trip. She didn't stand a chance. Sometimes I would think that he had married Frances Mae just to show Mother that she was irreplaceable. That Frances Mae was some kind of a surrogate who could have his body but would never know his heart.

Unfortunately for Mother, as Trip's family grew, his attentions became less frequent and more disingenuous. When he began to drink a lot, Mother began to whip it on the masses. The gardener, Raoul. The UPS man. Mother spread it around, to say the least. She had a ballno pun intended. I used to think she did these things to make Trip jealous, but later I decided she was just determined to enjoy every minute of her life.

Mother's affairs pretty well horrified Trip and Frances Mae and helped them build their case that Mother had a loose screw. Well, in the amour sense, she was a loose screwhell, she left a string of bodies behind her too numerous to count. But crazy? Not even for a second. Our mother, Lavinia Boswell Wimbley, finally laid out in lavender (and blue paisley), was as sane as they came. She offered no apologies.

My heart was completely broken. You see, six months ago I was living in New York and I thought I was very happily married. Richard and I had a great apartment on Park Avenue, our son, Eric, was growing up beautifully, I had a small but successful decorating business, and life was pretty darn good. Sure, we had our issues now and then, but there was no pressing reason for complaints.

No, I never dreamed this could happen. I had spent the last fifteen, sixteen years, or maybe more, building a case for living in New York and against anything remotely connected with the ACE Basin of South Carolina and plantation life. It was horrible to me! Boring! The unending repetition of tradition, day after year after generation after generation! Suffocating! The ACE was my demon to reckon with and mine alone. And anyone would have thought that at this stage in my life, I was old and wise enough to take it on. So I came home to see about Mother for a short visit. I wanted to assess things with my own eyes.

My relationship with Mother and with Trip had been strained for years. The geographic distance between us didn't help things either. But I wasn't going to let Trip move Mother out of Tall Pines and into a retirement community without knowing if it was truly necessary. And that Mother wanted to go. I remember thinking, shoot, even though Mother and I had zero in common, she was my mother and I owed her at least that much.

What I found on arrival was exactly what I expected. Mother was playing cards with her girlfriends and talking about men. Millie, Mother's estate manager and friend of a zillion years, was still up to her same old voodoo. Trip was drunk as usual, Frances Mae was pregnant as usual and still turning over the silver looking for hallmarks with her green eyes. And their girls were still full of all the antics of every devil in hell. Everything seemed normal. It was.

I thought it was my mission to open Mother's eyes to Trip's intentions. To make her see that she needed to take it down a notch or two. Surprise, surprise. I was the one, not Mother, who was about to have her eyes opened. It was my cage that would be rattled until the fillings in my teeth vibrated. It was my complete sense of who I thought I was that would be wrung out to dry. Most importantly, I was to discover who we all truly were.

Over the years, as much as I would vehemently deny my passion for the ACE Basin of South Carolina, its pull on me was an all-powerful force. The ACE is Eden. It's where the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers join at St. Helena's Sound. The ACE is home to more species of birds, fish, flowers, and shrubs than you could name. Every inch of it wiggles in song; its beauty is stupefying.

No, once the ACE has you under its spell, you are hers for life. You could turn me around, blindfolded, in the handbag department of Bergdorf Goodman on Fifth Avenue and I could point my finger to the Edisto River the same way a compass needle always points north. I was nothing more than an extension of her waters. A displaced tributary.

So tonight we were all here in the Bagnal Funeral Home in Walterboro with Mother's body. There must have been three hundred people who came and went over the hours that I sat with Trip, Frances Mae, Millie, and Mother's closest friends.

People told stories of Mother's crazy theme parties that celebrated Cleopatra's birthday or some little-known Aztec holiday. There was the time she dressed herself as a goddess and floated down the Edisto on our pontoondecorated with billowing white buntingto celebrate The Birth of Venus. Trip and I were youngsters at the time and humiliated beyond words. I hated her then.

After Daddy died, Trip and I were parceled off to boarding schools; then came the parade of her lovers. She was quiet about her relationships at first, but once she was comfortable with her new way of living, the tempo quickened and the fireworks began. It was then Mother discovered Rod McKuen poetry and found her G-spot in an article in Cosmopolitan magazine. There was no stopping her. Back then I despised her flamboyance with every part of me.

Lately, I had completely changed my mind. If Mother was shockingly indiscreet, so what? Everyone adored her. You had to admit that she enjoyed her liberation. She was Miss Lavinia, the ACE Basin version of Auntie Mame. What a gal!

I looked among the crowd for Rev. Charles Moore and spotted him talking to Richard. At least she'd had the good judgment not to sleep with the minister, even though he probably would have gladly hopped in the sack with her. Endowment campaigns did strange things to people. Well, I thought, maybe she's left him something in her will. God knows, he lobbied hard enough for a bequest.

So many people came for Mother, to offer their love and sympathy. It was remarkable. But even though they were all courtesy and protocol on the outside, I knew there was a strong undercurrent. The unspoken gossip was nearly tangiblethe wanting to know, Who would inherit the plantation? What of her renowned fortunes? How much was there? Would Frances Mae be the new queen of Tall Pines? Would I, the errant daughter who'd married that odious Brit, a Jewish man, and a shrink, come to my senses and renounce him? It was a situation I was sure was driving the Lowcountry gentry nearly mad from not knowing.

Situations were what my family called times of indecisiveness and trouble that led to sullied reputations. Situations were best dealt with quickly and as quietly as possible. Between Mother's legendary soirees and love affairs, Frances Mae's greed, and my reappearance on the scene, we had enough jaws working overtime to keep the ears of Charleston, Colleton, and Dorchester Counties burning indefinitely.

All the while I shook hands and thanked people for coming, I fantasized that even there, in the funeral home, money was changing hands. Bets were being placed. Until the rumors became facts, gallons of mint juleps would be consumed all over the Lowcountry. The practiced and polished sweet tongues of prediction would wag! The social wizards would convene and foretell our future from imagined signs, fabricated reports, and supposed hints from someone inside the bosom of the Wimbley family.

Well, it wouldn't be me. I had come home to see about Mother and I had every intention of executing a dignified farewell for her. So did Trip. In Mother's memory, he and Frances Mae were hosting a fabulous receptionwith Millie's oversightto take place when we left the funeral home. They had truly pushed all the buttons they could find to make it something people would remember. And they would.

“Let us pray,” Reverend Moore said.

People became quiet and stood by respectfully. Trip and I had discussed this prayer service with the minister beforehand. All of us were grateful that Reverend Moore had agreed to stick to the standards and not to make a fuss about Mother's character. Her obituary in the Post and Courier had caused us some very unnecessary embarrassment. I suppose that there are some people who read them for entertainmentcertainly the journalist who wrote Mother's needed to be reassigned to the Used Automobile pages.

At the same moment we bowed our heads in prayer with Reverend Moore, one hundred tuxedoed waiters from Atlanta were over on Lynnwood Drive, popping corks from cases of Veuve Cliquot and arranging seafood and sushi on a sprawling bed of crushed ice. Silver platters were being filled with delicious finger food and a fifteen-piece band with a horn section was going through a sound check. There would be a tasting bar for Mother's favorite bourbons and many pounds of Sonny's barbecue would be hot and waiting in silver buffet dishes to be dolloped on tiny hamburger buns. In my head I could see the hustle and bustle of preparations. Trip and Frances Mae had absolutely done everything they could to give Miss Lavinia the send-off of the century. For once, I didn't have anything ugly to say about Frances Mae.

Millie and I had planned a more toned-down and traditional reception for tomorrow afternoon, after we spread Mother's ashes. But it too would be lovely. All these plans were spelled out in Miss Lavinia's final wishes. We had done our best to comply.

The prayer service ended and people began milling around again, offering condolences to us. Many of them were misty; Mother's best friends had wept openly, holding on to each other. They broke my heart all over again. I had known them all my life and to see them so upset was just awful.

I got up and walked over to Mother's casket. I was out of tears for the moment. Besides, Mother would have wanted me to keep my wits about me at her wake.

Reconciling finding Mother's heart and then losing her so quickly was going to be my ultimate challenge. I prayed she would haunt me forever. Just because she was dead, she had no right to desert me.

I looked down at her in her casket and thought about how peaceful she looked. I was going to need her grit and wisdom to survive, every ounce of it. I wasn't even one-

third the woman she was in her weakest moment. I had been a coward for far too long, hiding my emotions behind my Manhattan wardrobe of all black. I brushed back a lock of her hair, thinking how I loved her so desperately and how many years I had wasted mired in anger and resentment. Trip appeared at my side.

“You okay, Caroline?” His eyes were moist.

“Yeah, I'm fine. Lavinia would have loved this, don't you think?”

“Definitely,” he said. “She got enough flowers for a senator!”

It was true. The room overflowed with baskets of gorgeous arrangements. Trip and I had ordered two enormous sprays and a blanket of roses for her. The fragrance of the room was head-spinning. Trip looked shaken, so I gave the old boy a hug, and I could almost see Miss Lavinia smiling. He returned the embrace with an honesty I hadn't felt from him since we were children. I guessed he needed me.

Mother may have slipped through my fingers, but not without leaving a sweet residue. She had given me back my love of life, complete with permission and directions on how to live it. I had wasted no time in starting. Across the room, two of my most recent diversions were chatting away like old fraternity brothers. It gave me the giggles because Josh, the old Kama Sutra scholar with dreadlocks down to his waistthe one who could make you twitch in places you didn't even know had nerve endingsstood out in complete contrast to Jack, my doctor friend in the cashmere sport coat. Jack had the most beautiful hands I had ever seen on a man.

Then, over there, was Matthew...oh dear, in spite of these grave circumstances, I had to admit that my recent liaisons had more than a passing resemblance to Mother's.

I moved through the crowd to the windows and spotted my son, Eric, outside happily playing kick the pinecone with an energetic gang of children. He had never been so happy as he has been here, smack in the middle of the most turmoil I'd ever endured. He was free of stress and filled with alpha energy, truly happy just to be alive and a kid. It was obvious that the ACE was the medicine he needed.

Maybe it was what I needed too. For all those years I told myself there was no life for me here. That I was a city slicker and didn't need them. That I was streetwise. That I had my own family now and I'd evolved to a woman of few emotional needs.

Sure. When Mother came along, needing me for the first time, that theory exploded with all the insignificant fanfare of the careless dropping of a thin-shelled egg.

Humph, I thought, looking around; for the first time in my life, I had more men in the room than old Miss Lavinia. It seemed that I had a little situation of my own. Never be like her? I raised my hand to my throat, twisted her South Sea pearls around my finger, and let loose the longest sigh in respiratory history. Sonuvadamndog, it was in the DNA.

—Reprinted from Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank by permission of Berkley, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 2001 by Dorothea Benton Frank. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.

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Table of Contents

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Interviews & Essays

A Letter from Dorothea Benton Frank
There are four questions everybody always asks me. They are: what drives me to write about a certain topic, are my stories autobiographical, how do I go about the business of writing day-to-day, and could I please give them money. The answers are: for better understanding of the subject; yes, of course, and no, of course not; it's so hard you wouldn't believe it; and not unless you're selling time off in Purgatory.

I wrote Sullivan's Island for every reason other than the expectation of public approval or any meaningful financial reward. That yarn was crawling up my throat. If I hadn't written it, I might have choked to death on it. Someone once told me that I would write when I couldn't not write. I never should have spoken to that person again; he made me think. It was the truest and most terrifying comment anyone ever made to me. Frankly -- no pun intended -- writing hurts.

My first book, Sullivan' Island, grew from a painful attempt to deal with the loss of my mother and the subsequent loss of what I felt was "my place on the planet." This girl's place was by her Momma's side on Sullivan's Island, South Carolina -- and I've only been living in New York temporarily for the past 20-odd years. Once a Geechee Girl, always a Geechee Girl. That's just how my brain was wired, so I started writing to figure out how to reconcile my life. Seeing Sullivan's Island plop its pretty title on the New York Times list helped enormously. It did, and not merely for vanity's sake, but because what it meant was that many people understood how I felt. That kind of realization was priceless consolation to my aching heart. And, most importantly, that connection with readers through email, book signings, and book clubs, gave me the courage and desire to continue to write.

My Lowcountry Tales are not romances, but they are stories about what I love and value: family, friends, truth, kindness, forgiveness and compassion. Plantation, my new book, digs deep.

The folks populating Plantation believe themselves to be worldly and savvy. Caroline, the daughter, thinks she's happy. Ha! She thinks she has nothing in common with her mother, Miss Lavinia, and that she has no place in the Lowcountry because she's become a slick New Yorker. Ha! And the lengths to which Miss Lavinia will travel for attention were shocking even to me -- and I wrote the darn book! Needless to say, I hope readers will find the push and pull of the mother/daughter dynamic and the endless shenanigans of all the characters to be interesting, entertaining, and true.

Plantation is a good snapshot, I think, of what modern day plantation living is like. But it is also about geographically separated families, coming to terms with who you really are and what you hope to become, taking care of aging and eccentric parents, what to do about unlovable in-laws -- and, as always, about the real and true mysteries of the magical Lowcountry of South Carolina.

I suspect that I will always place my stories in the Lowcountry, because its tidal magnet pumps my heart's blood like a powerful drug. I prefer to write about issues that concern me, human qualities which go unrewarded and undervalued in today's society -- such as personal integrity, morality, the courage to name something what it is against popular opinion.

The characters I write about may have certain traits borrowed from people I have known, but the characters themselves are all fictional, just as the plots are not from events in my life, but about what I might do if they were. I figure if the story I'm working on can play itself out to a satisfactory conclusion in the Lowcountry of South Carolina then, in my mind (what's left of it), it could be happening anywhere.

At present, I'm working on a third novel, tentatively entitled Isle of Palms. It's named after another actual barrier island of the Lowcountry coast, once home to beautiful Indians and evil pirates. This time I'm tackling the lives of contemporary people dealt an unfair hand of cards. It shows their attempt to overcome their lot by having a plan, which sometimes works pretty well and at other times causes emotional upheaval and explosions. It's about change, something held in low esteem by some, not all, island residents. The story tells of the influx of lovable and not so lovable Yankees critical to the local economy, played against the congenial or cantankerous old islanders, versus the historic relevance of Charleston's illustrious past. It all makes for great fun in the telling and eventually, I hope, in the reading. If my muse will cut me a little slack, Isle of Palms should be out next summer -- 2002.

I love, love, love to hear from readers: Email is the fuel that keeps me alive and struggling to hone the old craft of creating better novels. It's also the most efficient way to directly contact me. I answer emails sent to dot@dotfrank.com myself -- nope, no glamorous staff or auto-responses. So, if I'm traveling, it could take some time to reply, as I am not a techno-whiz -- but I will respond!

I want to say one more thing, and that is that I am deeply and sincerely grateful for everyone's support and generous words. Have a great summer on the Plantation! And, y'all come back, yanh?

Best wishes,
Dorothea Benton Frank

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

Caroline Wimbley Levine always swore she’d never go home again. But now, at her brother’s behest, she has returned to South Carolina to see about Mother—only to find that the years have not changed the Queen of Tall Pines Plantation. Miss Lavinia is as maddeningly eccentric as ever—and absolutely will not suffer the questionable advice of her children. This does not surprise Caroline. Nor does the fact that Tall Pines is still brimming with scandals and secrets, betrayals and lies. But she soon discovers that something is different this time around. It lies somewhere in the distance between her and her mother-and in her understanding of what it means to come home…

ABOUT DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK

The sands of Sullivan's Island follow me everywhere. No matter where I have traveled, worked or lived, I am only and always a woman whose home place is the beach. Growing up there gave me lots of time to dream - to dream of what my life would become. And writing this book gave me lots of time to remember. One of my happiest summer memories - besides digging holes to China and sliding down the hill fort - is of the Bookmobile. This old clanker of a bus/van would stop in front of my momma's house and I would run for my fortnightly dose of juvenile literature. Three books under my arm, I'd dive into our hammock and finish them all in one day without moving. Then I'd have to wait thirteen days until the Bookmobile returned. Waiting became a theme in my life - waiting for more books, waiting to be old enough to do this or that, for life to give me permission to pursue my dreams, for a million things. I'll probably never develop the virtue of patience, so waiting is my cross. It should be the worst thing I have ever had to bear.

Unlike my sister Lynn, I was a terrible student. Around my twelfth year, I stopped studying in school. I was the classic case of wanting to be cool, the Saving Ophelia Syndrome, rebelling against everything and a whole long list of pathetic excuses. I only reveal this now to let you know that where you start seldom has anything to do with where you land. Life is not like the trajectory of a bullet. I never stopped reading and I never stopped working. Both of these I do with frightening vigor. I managed to graduate from a fashion school on sheer luck and worked on Seventh Avenue for years. I took what skills I had used there into the world of volunteerism for a few more years, raising money for the arts and education.

That vigor is the thirst I could never quench, and the harsh realities of the business world and volunteer fundraising made me understand just how critical a complete education is. But love of words (and my compulsion to be understood) is what made this miracle of becoming a published author come true. So now I'd like to do something for other women who for whatever reason didn't get the educational experience they longed for and who can't find the courage to change their lives. And, needless to say, I'd like to do something for women and children without hope, who don't dream. Please take a moment to visit the Foundation link and share your thoughts.

So what else? I am ecstatically happy with my delicious husband Peter, and adore my two children, Victoria and William down to their last freckles. I have two Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Henry and Buster who are as cute as cookies. I play awful tennis, cheat at cards to make my children laugh, speak emergency French and Italian - lots of gesturing, love to cook and entertain. I also garden like mad, still love to visit Sullivan's Island as often as possible, and am always looking for an adventure. I still read like a lunatic - favorite authors are the ones I shamelessly tortured to give me endorsements for my book - John Berendt, Pat Conroy, Bret Lott, Fern Michaels, and Ann Rivers Siddons. I'm always on a diet and admit to being slightly neurotic. If I could have anything in the world, it would be to pick up my entire life and drop it on the beach at Sullivan's Island. Writing is the next best thing.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Caroline and Richard never really had much in common. What was the attraction? Was Richard a father figure? Would she have been better off marrying a Lowcountry boy? Were Richard and a life in New York an act of defiance?
     
  • Caroline suspected very early on that Richard was still involved with Lois, yet denial kicked in. Why? Was that part of the “Wimbley Family Law”? When it’s too tough to deal with, just pretend it’s not there?
     
  • Caroline’s memories of her Father are vivid. How does his death affect her feelings about him? How does it influence her relationships with other men? With which parent does she identify and why? And, do we become our parents?
     
  • Why is Caroline’s relationship with Lavinia so complicated? Isn’t she more like Lavinia than she chooses to admit? How does Caroline benefit from acknowledging their similarities?
     
  • Their father’s tragic death played a huge role in shaping Tripp and Caroline. Discuss the impact that Lavinia’s reaction had on both children. How did Nevil’s death change Lavinia’s life? Do you think she ever really recovered?
     
  • As Lavinia’s closest friend and an alternate mother to Caroline and Tripp, Millie is a key character in all their lives. Discuss how she influenced each of their lives.
     
  • Healing is at the heart of this book. Though Millie has an encyclopedic knowledge of herbal remedies, her most important healing was done simply by listening and advising. Do you think she passed on that wisdom more so than her herbal skills?
     
  • The ACE Basin is a full-blown character in Plantation. How does the familiar beauty of the Edisto help the Wimbley family heal? Discuss its importance as a refuge and a “home” to each member of the family.
     
  • Like Caroline, Tripp chose his spouse as a reaction to the void he felt in his family life. How is the healing of the family responsible, in part, for the dissolution of his miserable marriage?
     
  • How does Eric’s move to Tall Pines change his life? Do you think Lavinia’s ability to openly adore Eric reveals something important to her own children? What draws Eric and Tripp together? And why does Lavinia reject Tripp’s children.
     
  • If Lavinia, Caroline and Tripp are so civilized, why can’t they overcome their feelings about Frances Mae? Do being so very wealthy and also the family matriarch give Lavinia the right to be so judgmental? Do you think Frances Mae hates them all?
     
  • Caroline rediscovers Lavinia and has a new level of respect for much of Lavinia’s behavior that she did not understand in the past. Now, Caroline will assume Lavinia’s role as head of the family. How will this change Caroline and Tall Pines?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 113 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(58)

4 Star

(37)

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2 Star

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1 Star

(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2008

    A reviewer

    I first read Dorothea Benton Frank 3years ago on a trip to america and I have read every book she has writtten to date so far ,but this is my favourite . She is the only author I buy the hard book edition as I can't wait for the next book.

    5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2007

    FABULOUS BOOK

    This book was FABULOUS!!! I picked it up our Library's annual book sale on the table with books about the South!!! Who would want to live anywhere else but the South? This book is soooo rich in character descriptions and if you are from the South , you surely know a family like Miss Lavania's or you are part of one!!!! I had a Millie in my family growing up and I loved this character!

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 15, 2013

    Highly Recommended

    Dorothea Benton Frank is one of my favorite authors. This is one of her most touching works. The characters are well developed and animated. The story line is moving, funny, and colorful. If you have not read Dorothea Benton Frank, this is a wonderful example of her style and wit. I look forward to each new work, just wish she could write faster.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2010

    A great story!

    I liked this one. It was a touching, emotional story that you will enjoy! It is the story of Caroline who never wanted to live on the plantation at home again with her family. She fights it the whole way but ends up coming back. Her mother is funny, eccentric and after many events, Caroline moves back to the plantation. It is a great story that is totally relate able. I want to visit Tall Pines badly after reading about this place! I actually laughed out loud and cried. It is a great story with great characters.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 27, 2009

    I have read Dorothea Benton Frank's books since about 2001 or and enjoy the Low Country emphasis.

    Due to the holiday's I haven't had many chances to casually read so I am still working on this one. The main character is based in New York and I don't care about that setting, but the connection to the low Country and her family bring it back to the type story that I like. I hope to finish this in the next day or so. There is a lot of suspense involved in whether Caroline returns to New York and how she handles her family's issues.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2008

    I Haven't Laughed This Hard

    Fiddle dee dee! I haven't laughed this hard in a long time!! I really think you have to be a Southerner to truly appreciate all this book has to offer 'phrases, etc.'. I have been gone from the South for over 35 years, but I truly did laugh until I cried. I saw lots of my dysfunctional family in this novel. This is the first book I've read by this author, but I'll definitely be reading more.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 14, 2008

    BORING

    I read at least 250 pages. It almost put me to sleep.

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2013

    A delightful read!

    Do yourself a favor and read this book. PLANTATION was my introduction to Dorothea Benton Frank's prodigious talent. I paced my reading toward the end of the book because it was about to end. But help was to be found at Barnes & Noble as I found the companion books listed (and quickly added them to my Wish List).

    I was completely invested with each character's life as I read PLANTATION. Ms. Frank drew me in and her writing held me to the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Another great book!

    Dorothea Benton Frank is one of my favorite authors. I want to read all of her books, and I'm nearly there! Will be sorry to not have any more to read. Hopefully she will continue to write these great low country books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2013

    Great story!

    I loved this book-it was very realistic and so humorous! There were things in this book that everyone can relate to when it comes to thier family. I will definately read more of this writers books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2013

    Great story, many funny points

    I loved this book. The characters really come to life!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 8, 2013

    After reading Folly Beach, I couldn't wait to get my hands on an

    After reading Folly Beach, I couldn't wait to get my hands on another one of Dorothea Benton Franks' books. I then read Sullivan's Island. Now I am hooked on her writings. Once I start one, I just don't want to put it down until I am finished. Reading her books fills many lonely hours for me. They are like going back home. I am not from the low country, but Greenville, SC. I am about to get Plantation and can't wait!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 1, 2012

    highly recommended

    these books would mkkae great christmas presents. Love the author

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2012

    I'm having a hard time getting through this. I have enjoyed many

    I'm having a hard time getting through this. I have enjoyed many of Ms. Frank's books but this one just doesn't have enough of a story and the characters are too shallow for me. I'm about 300 pages in and looking forward to being done with it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Great Story

    Beautifully written story of support and love not only of family members but of those around them.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2012

    Enthralling...

    A wonderful immersion into a facet of Lowcountry culture, lifestyle and personalities. Certain passages were so poignant they made my heart pang.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2012

    A must read!

    Her books always make me want to go to the "low country". Dorothea Benton Franks books are very captivating. I always enjoy reading them and have a hard time putting them down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2012

    Hightly Recommended

    This is my all time favorita Dorothea Benton Frank book.
    So much so I have it in paperback and now on my Nook Color.
    It's all about a quirky southern family in SC, but a very
    real and believable family.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 4, 2011

    Don't Judge a Book by its Cover-Really!

    I was given this book by my grandma (oddly enough). After reading the description, I was skeptical. It didn't seem overly interesting, but I was bored and needed something to read. So, I dove right in. I was pleasantly surprised! This book was hilarious! The character development was very good and the plot was great. I have since read several of Ms. Frank's other novels and she is a fantastic writer. Her books are witty, funny, emotional, and relevant. I highly recommend this author to everyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 28, 2011

    Must Read

    If you enjoy books set in the south this is a must read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be purchasing more by this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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